- - Monday, July 22, 2013

The faith-based Center for Pregnancy Concerns, a Baltimore nonprofit agency, sounds vaguely like an abortion clinic, but it definitely is not. Its purposes are set out clearly in its mission statement, that of protecting “the physical, emotional and spiritual lives of women and their unborn children,” and the center says it won’t “perform or refer for abortions because of the physical and emotional risks involved.”

That’s not plain enough for the city of Baltimore. The city enacted an ordinance in 2009 requiring such centers to post signs making it clear that anyone searching for an abortion or birth control devices can’t get it there. The prescribed message on the signs must be “written in English and Spanish,” be “easily readable,” and be “conspicuously posted in the center’s waiting room or other area where individuals await service.” The city insists this is a “consumer protection measure.”

Litigation naturally followed, as it always does, and a federal court voided the ordinance on technical grounds, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed the lower court decision, making no judgment on the civil rights issues. More litigation will follow, and the city of Baltimore will suspend enforcement of the ordinance until the courts sort it out.

This is a curious dispute, which seems less about the wording of a sign than about protecting the abortion industry. The mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, was the guiding force for the ordinance when she was a member of the city council. Many feminists seem to regard abortion as a rite of passage and anything that looks like an obstacle to the procedure, even a last-minute change of mind by a woman seeking an abortion, is an affront to “choice,” and must be eliminated. Pregnancy centers like the faith-based Center for Pregnancy Concerns must not be allowed to offer women the choice of changing her mind.

Abortions and birth-control devices are not hard to find in Baltimore. Several abortion clinics, including one by Planned Parenthood, operate within the city limits. A few not-so-nice clinics in Maryland, including one in Baltimore, were closed by the state after the trial and conviction of Kermit Gosnell, who operated a particularly sordid clinic in Philadelphia.

“We are confident [the] procedural ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit will eventually lead to a ruling that affirms pregnant women in need of assistance and the First Amendment principles we treasure in a free society,” Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore said after the decision by the appeals court. “A three-judge panel of this same court affirmed a 2011 ruling of a federal court in Baltimore, with both courts saying the city’s ordinance violates the pro-life pregnancy centers’ First Amendment rights by requiring the posting of the sign. We continue to believe the ordinance is based solely on the centers’ moral and religious beliefs.” We think Archibishop Lori is correct, and hope the appeals court agrees when it resolves the technical procedural issues.

The Washington Times